Malcolm Gladwell described a 10,000-Hour Rule, which states that 10,000 hours of doing a particular task makes an expert.
My senior year of high school, Jamie Randall (’12) and I calculated our time at Ridgeview: 10 years at Ridgeview, times 7 hours a day, times 180 days per school year, which amounts to 12,800 seat-hours alone. This does not include homework, dinnertime conversations about the Aeneid, heated after-school debates about Crime and Punishment, frequent contemplation on the American government, or voluntary book clubs. We concluded, proudly, that we had become experts at being Ridgeview students.
The teacher in the room responded to our somewhat facetious conversation: “Maybe, but what kind of students were you?”
In other words, did we become experts at cutting corners? Did we become experts at giving the teachers ‘what they wanted to hear?’ A student who diligently avoids work and does the bare minimum becomes an accomplished avoid-er rather than an expert worker.
Did we simply become more responsive to the concern of parents and teachers, or did we become self-sufficient and internally motivated? Did we become thoughtful contributors? Did we become expert thinkers and writers? Did we become students who performed tasks with integrity in a timely manner?
My compatriot and I concluded that we had become the latter, but not overnight. There were times when we were remarkably inconsistent. Some days, we came to school because we had to and others, because we loved to. Some days, we did the bare minimum while others we went above-and-beyond. But, generally, we continued to get better.
Although my upper school years were marked with academic consistency, my elementary years were not. Mrs. Busek, my fifth grade teacher and, later, guardian, remarked that I would turn in thoughtful reading journals sometimes, and, at others, sloppy assignments clearly done in the PAC right before class. Although I sometimes performed well, I was not yet the kind of person that performed well.
When I first came to Ridgeview, my third grade teacher placed my desk near the back of the room so that I could see how the other students raised their hands before they spoke. Although still energetic, my contributions senior year were tempered with virtues I had practiced since arriving at Ridgeview.
I spent many recesses during my first year working with my math teacher. I turned in drafts of papers whenever permitted, and in multiples if possible. I visited teachers during study hall, formed study groups and traded essays with other students. I took classes in subjects I loved as well as those I was less affectionate toward, and I got better at both.
For current students, I must present this: if, in 7 or so years at Ridgeview, you become an expert at being a student, what kind of student will you be? What habits and choices would direct you towards attaining the expertise you desire? What changes do you need to make, or do you simply need to continue?
As Jamie Randall puts it, becoming better meant, “Coming to the realization that everything is full of wonder and everything changes, including our perception. Both of those facts about the world (and people) offer endless learning opportunities, and an expert student knows how to access them.”
Little changes accumulate quickly over 10,000 hours — changes in attitude, in effort, in habit. Thus, I must ask: how will your 10,000 hours define you?